By Tae Haahr
Exercise and I have always had a love-hate relationship.
The older I get, the more I realize the importance of exercise for my overall health and well-being.
But on the other hand, it’s taken me over twenty-five years to get comfortable with and truly appreciate my body — and even now, I still have my days.
Quite frankly, I don’t want to exercise myself out of a body I love.
Learning to fall in love with my body has been a process. I’ve always been plus size. Ever since I was a chubby toddler wandering around the house in a Batman cape and mask, I remember being on the heavier end of the scale with plump cheeks and a rounded tummy.
And, as a television and film nerd (ask me anything about Star Trek: The Next Generation), I grew up watching someone else’s idea of what beauty is … which seemingly meant watching skinny girls with perfect skin and even more perfect legs run around on the screen.
Overcoming that type of cultural messaging isn’t easy; and it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I realized that being big, and being me, is beautiful.
Exercising With A Body Positive Perspective
It seems to me that there’s some unwritten rule that says — once you become body positive and learn to love who you are and what you look like — then you suddenly have to be that, and feel that way, all of the time.
The idea that exercising and taking care of yourself is a mutiny against body positivity, and that plus size women don’t belong in the wellness space because, well, we’re fat, has always stuck with me.
The idea that plus size women don’t belong in the wellness space because, well, we’re fat, has always stuck with me.
Accepting and loving myself sometimes felt like a contradiction to wanting to 'be healthy.'
(Even though at this point, it has been scientifically proven that health does not correlate with body size.)
God forbid we both love how we look and exercise to feel good about ourselves, without aiming to lose weight.
But — in my experience — the goal of the exercise isn’t and shouldn’t be to lose weight. Exercise can be fun, refreshing, joyful, challenging, social, and revitalizing, completely independent of impact on size and shape.
It can be something you do for you, just as you are.
A Chubby Girl’s Exercise Goals
If not for the goal of becoming less fat ... then why exercise?
It took me a long while to learn that adding a dose of exercise into my daily routine doesn’t have to mean that I’m trying to change myself. Heading out to the gym, taking a fitness class, eating healthier or trading an Uber ride for a walk doesn’t mean you’re trying to become less fat.
No, there are a ton of amazing, non-weight-related benefits that come with adding exercise into your daily routine. This chubby girl exercises because it makes me feel better:
Exercising helps me build and maintain body confidence.
For me, this doesn’t happen through weight loss, but simply through dedicating time to my body. There’s something about taking a jog on the treadmill that makes you feel empowered and in control. Or finishing a round of sit-ups and thinking girl, you got this.
The simple act of exercising centers me in my body and builds my confidence.
Exercising helps improve and maintain good mental health.
Behind building confidence, the mental health benefits of exercise are the main reason I partake. I have anxiety, and depending on when and how I experience it, it can be pretty challenging to deal with.
Exercise helps — a lot.
The most important exercise activity during my day for my mental health is my hour-long walk before bed. It helps me unwind from the day and relax.
Exercising helps improve my physical health - and that doesn’t have anything to do with my weight.
One of the reasons I exercise is to help my overall physical function — regardless of where I am with weight. I like trying new movements, improving coordination, and working on my flexibility, strength, endurance, and mobility.
There’s so much to be gained from exercise that doesn’t have to (and honestly, maybe shouldn’t be) tied with weight loss.
How To Get Started
So … one girl’s recommendation? That — even if it might be intimidating, or otherwise uncomfortable at first — it’s worth it to find ways to incorporate body positive exercise into your day.
And the best part: you definitely don’t have to rush out to sign up for that non-cancellable gym membership. (TBH, that might not be the best headspace to start out in anyway when you’re trying to re-frame your perspective on exercise.)
There are so many other great ways to get started!
Here are a few ideas ...
- Taking a walk around the block — this can be a great way to get some fresh air, get some movement, and reset your mind
- Cleaning your house (get out the mop, or clean behind the fridge!) can you say two birds, one stone?
- Have a solo dance party
- Do a no-equipment needed exercise at home (my favorite is the Beginner Workout by POPSUGAR Fitness)
- Take a bike ride (or scooter!) to your favorite coffee shop
Integrating exercise into your daily schedule shouldn't feel like a punishment, nor should it make you feel like you’re rejecting your body. You can one thousand percent exercise FOR you, in the way YOU want to, just as you are.
You have a beautiful, amazing body, and adding exercise to your routine can enhance your appreciation of it and how great you feel about it.
Have you had a similar experience with exercise? Other thoughts or feels? Let me know in the comments!